This article examines a post–Civil War trend in novels that focus on the mechanics of governmental process. Remarkable for the smallness of their concerns, these novels replace the bitter conflicts of the war and Reconstruction with plots that hinge on matters of political procedure. Two political journalists and early practitioners of this genre, Mark Twain and Henry Adams, deliberately turned to the novel to advance a nonpartisan perspective that existed in neither the press nor the politics of the period. I argue that Twain’s The Gilded Age, which famously named the era, did more to shape future political conflicts than to describe those of its own time. By examining how Adams’s Democracy even further developed this formal nonpartisanship, I show what the political stakes were for this shift in the nineteenth century, how it related to the abandonment of Reconstruction, and why it is important today to consider the novel’s role in its development.

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